There's no doubt about it -- ageism is out there. Older applicants will inevitably run into hidden objections regarding their energy level, their ability and willingness to do the job, their desire (or lack of it) to learn new skills and other unfortunate prejudgments based solely upon age. Therefore, as job-seeker past 50, you'll want to do all you can to dispel any negative thoughts your interviewer may be holding against you. You can bet these unfortunate preconceptions will not be voiced -- but they may very well be the deciding factor as to whether or not you land the job.
With adequate preparation, the right attitude and a little forethought, however, you'll be able counteract these negative stereotypes and present yourself as a viable, attractive candidate. Many age-related preconceptions can be dispelled through cues you give off by your nonverbal messages. Energy and enthusiasm are two of the main ones. Other points, such as technical ability and your willingness to learn new things, can be addressed by proactively bringing them up during the interview.
The following are several tips to help you mind both your verbal and your nonverbal messages:
- Present a youthful appearance. Be certain your outfit is stylish, your glasses are contemporary, and, if necessary, whiten your teeth. If gray hair is not your friend, consider coloring it.
- Project energy and confidence through your posture, handshake, eye contact, vocal tone, and your smile.
- Watch filler words like "um" and "uh." Too many, and you'll look like you lack confidence. Answer questions briefly but provide sufficient information/examples that demonstrate your skills and knowledge. Think before you speak: Slow your speech and respond in complete sentences.
- Let your interviewers know that you've kept up-to-date professionally and that technology is not a problem for you. (If it is, take a class or an online tutorial. You don't want something that might be easily remedied holding you back.)
- Give several examples of how you're a quick study and enjoy learning new things. Periodically refer to the fact that you enjoy your work, feel you're good at it and want to continue to grow your skill set.
- Proactively state you enjoy working with and learning from people of all ages. You've reported to younger bosses in the past and it was never a problem.
- You won't want to discuss salary in early interview sessions but, when the time is right and you feel comfortable doing so, be certain to let them know you're flexible. There are many factors that fall under compensation, and salary might not be your main concern at this point.
Above all let your interviewer know you're a confident, can-do candidate who's eager to contribute and make a difference to their organization. Employers have issues and problems they need to resolve and, if you present yourself as the problem-solver they're looking to find, they'll be interested. Plus, if you focus on the advantages your age brings -- experience, highly honed skill sets, work ethic, people skills, and numerous other important assets -- you've got a winning combination that should help you present yourself as a strong, attractive applicant no matter your age.
So anticipate success. Nothing beats a confident candidate with a winning attitude!
Mary Eileen Williams is a Nationally Board Certified Career Counselor with a Master's Degree in Career Development and twenty years' experience assisting midlife jobseekers to achieve satisfying careers. Her book, Land the Job You Love: 10 Surefire Strategies for Jobseekers Over 50, is a step-by-step guide that helps you turn your age into an advantage. Recently updated, it's packed with even more information aimed at providing mature applicants with the tools to successfully navigate the modern job market and gain the edge over the competition. Visit her website at Feisty Side of Fifty.com and celebrate your sassy side!